The Macaronesia Islands of the Atlantic
The Macaronesia islands are a collection of four archipelagos in the North Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of Europe and Africa. Each archipelago is made up of several Atlantic oceanic islands formed by seamounts on the ocean floor with summits above the ocean’s surface. The islands have a unique biography and are home to several distinct plant and animal communities. Interestingly, none of the Macaronesian islands were ever part of a continent, so the native plants and animals that reached the islands were via long-distance dispersal. The Macaronesian islands belong to three countries: Portugal, Spain, and Cabo Verde. Politically, the islands belonging to Portugal and Spain are part of the European Union. Geologically, Macaronesia is part of the African Tectonic Plate, including the Azores, which marks its edge at the Eurasian and North American Tectonic Plates’ meeting point. These islands have been suggested in some of the oldest living literature to exist. The word Macaronesia comes from the Greek word Macaronesio which is mentioned in the 8th-century book Homer’s Odyessy as ‘The Isle of the Blessed’. It is said that these islands are reserved for only the purest souls who, once they return to life, get to live in this paradise region. The word was then adapted from Macaronesio to Macaronesia, which the region is recognized as. Some say that the islands were simply a mythical place written about in fantasy; however, anyone who has visited these islands in the North-Atlantic encounter the awe-inspiring beauty and simplicity that Homer wrote about over 13 centuries ago. The four island archipelagos in the Macaronesian diaspora from South to North starts with the islands of Cabo Verde. Cape Verde or Cabo Verde, officially the Republic of Cabo Verde, is an island country in the central Atlantic Ocean. These ten islands are simply charming and are excellent to visit any time of the year due to the fair climate that exists on these secluded, tropical islands. The ten volcanic islands in its archipelago have a combined land area of about 4,000 square kilometers. The archipelago was uninhabited until the 15th century, when Portuguese explorers discovered and colonized the islands, establishing the tropics’ first European settlement. A part of the Portuguese empire until 1975 and now an independent African nation Cabo Verde is now one of the most democratic and free regions in all of Africa. On October 24th, 2013, the country’s delegation announced that the official name should no longer be translated into other languages at the United Nations. Instead of “Cape Verde,” the designation “Republic of Cabo Verde” should now be adopted, which the UN passed. The 2nd group of islands in the Macaronesia diaspora are the Canary Islands. The Canary Islands are a Spanish autonomous archipelago located in the Atlantic Ocean, 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of Morocco. The Canary Islands are geographically located in the African Tectonic Plate, even though the archipelago is economically and politically part of Europe. The eight main islands are Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro, and La Graciosa. As of 2019, the Canary Islands had a population of 2,153,389 citizens. Most originating from Spain with many German and British expatriates now living there. The archipelago population is mostly concentrated in the two capital islands: around 43% on the island of Tenerife and 40% on the island of Gran Canaria. It is very easy to travel between the islands by air or sea and all the islands have modern hotels and excellent restaurants. The islands have a subtropical climate, with long hot summers and relatively mild winters. The precipitation levels vary depending on location and elevation. Laurisilva forested areas, as well as deserts, also exist on the archipelago. The economy is based primarily on tourism, which makes up around 30% of the GDP. The Canaries get about 12 million tourists per year to these exquisite islands. The archipelago’s principal tourist attraction is the Teide National Park (in Tenerife), which is the highest mountain in Spain and the third largest volcano (Mount Teide), which receives over 2.8 million visitors annually. These islands are filled with so many things to do both indoors and outdoors and are certainly one of the most picturesque regions in the Atlantic to explore. The next group of Macaronesian islands is known simply as Madeira. The archipelago situated in the North Atlantic Ocean is just under 400 kilometers (250 mi) to the north of the Canary Islands and 520 kilometers (320 mi) west of Morocco. Madeira was claimed by Portuguese navigators under the service of Prince Henry the Navigator in 1419 and settled the islands in 1420. The archipelago is considered the first territorial discovery and the beginning of the ‘Age of Discovery’ exploratory period. The region is now an autonomous region of Portugal and has its own governing body and constitution. The archipelago includes the islands of Madeira, Porto Santo, and the Desertas. The capital of the region is on the island of Madeira, which is Funchal. There are various microclimates on these gorgeous islands due to the different elevation changes that exist here. The islands are strongly influenced by the Gulf Stream winds, giving it mild to warm year-round temperatures. The weather is only one of the reasons why this region receives close to 2 million visitors a year. The island of Madeira has one of the last remaining Laurisilva forests in Europe, which has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site. This rare forest once covered most of Europe and Madeira island; however, mass deforestation has left only pockets of this rainforest left.These forests make the perfect spot for any nature lover to come and explore the flora and fauna of the rare laurel forest. Many endemic flowers, trees, and birds exist in these forests. It is thanks to the environmental protections imposed in recent decades, these species have been able to thrive in their natural habitat.